Recent Posts:

Cleantech VC:  The LP perspective, pt 1

Rob Day: October 28, 2008, 3:59 PM
On this site we've occasionally enlisted fellow VCs and other market participants in a "five questions" exercise, to help share other voices from around the industry, but one voice that's been lacking here (and, for the most part, elsewhere) has been the perspective from the limited partner community in cleantech venture capital. As a reminder, limited partners (or LPs) are the investors who give capital to venture capital funds to invest on their behalf.  They can be institutional investors, family offices, individuals, etc., but in all cases they are essentially the VCs' "customers", interacting with and evaluating which funds to back, etc.  So they're a pretty important...

Cobalt Biofuels and GOTV

Rob Day: October 26, 2008, 3:47 PM
This week saw only one announced cleantech venture deal.  Things have gotten suddenly very sloooowwww out there... And this week's deal requires a mandatory: (self-promotion alert)... Cobalt Biofuels, a developer of technologies for the production of biobutanol, announced a $25mm Series C co-led by LSP and Pinnacle Ventures, and including participation by new investors Harris and Harris, and existing investors VantagePoint Venture Partners, The Malaysian Life Sciences Fund and @Ventures.  For more information on what Cobalt's up to, see this article. Since that was the only deal over the past 5 workdays, let's do some GOTV. First, Get Out the Vote!  Google Maps has put...

MIT Elevator Pitch Contest

Rob Day: October 20, 2008, 7:09 AM
There's a lot of uncertainty right now about how the global financial turmoil will affect cleantech VC over the near to medium term.  I've seen news stories (mostly looking at backward data) talking about how cleantech has been insulated from the downturn, and I've also seen news stories suggesting the sector is about to drive off a cliff ala Toonces. So in the current context, it was a real joy getting to be one of the judges for the energy track of Saturday's MIT Elevator Pitch Contest.  A bit of a different format from the many other bplan contests I've judged in the past -- in the EPC, we blitzed through over 20 presentations in under an hour, as each student/entrepreneur had...

Ocean power:  Attractive and challenging

Rob Day: October 15, 2008, 3:42 AM
I had the pleasure of attending a briefing on GTM's new ocean power market report last week. In their report, the authors make a compelling case that ocean power (wave power, tidal power, etc.) is poised to see rapid market adoption, eventually taking a significant role in the green energy generation mix.

The findings also served to reinforce in my mind, however, just how challenging this sector and others like it are for venture capitalists.

Venture capitalists don't back entire markets, we invest in individual companies. So even when there is an attractive market such as this one, choosing the right company to partner with is critical. And thus comes one of the major challenges...

Smart Grid 2.0

Rob Day: October 13, 2008, 5:58 AM
I noted with some interest Silver Spring's $75mm financing announcement last week -- although it's unclear if this is a new round or just a further extension of their Series C we mentioned back in April.  But regardless of the financial details, it's a big financing for a company in the smart grid sector. The idea of the "smart grid" has been around for some time (as this post from nearly 3 years ago attests...), as the embodiment of the goal of a fully-automated and intelligent electricity transmission and distribution system.  The original smart grid plays, however, were a far cry from this vision.  Instead, they focused on small parts of the overall problem, reflecting the...

Deal catch-up

Rob Day: October 13, 2008, 3:58 AM
Here are the deals from the past fortnight that we hadn't already talked about elsewhere:
  • See GTM's Funding Roundup for descriptions of deals for Solar Power Partners, Promethean Power Systems, Urbasolar, EcoMotors, Magnomatics, Redwood Systems, ICQ Group, and MyFC.  [10/13 update:  The latest Funding Roundup got posted as I was writing this column, and additionally mentioned Apollo Solar]
  • JinkoSolar, a Chinese PV silicon wafer vendor, has raised a $35mm Series B.  China Israel Value Capital, Shenzhen Capital Group, and Pitango led the round.

Cleantech venture capital:  The next six months

Rob Day: October 10, 2008, 4:13 AM
So much for that economic stability we wistfully discussed last week. With the economic forecast for the next 18 months looking pretty grim, energy prices have begun to fall sharply, led by oil, which is now back down below $80 per barrel.  While I often point out that oil doesn't dictate ALL our energy prices (not much of our electricity comes from oil, for example), in this case the causality between oil prices and electricity prices is the same: the downturn reducing economic production and thus consumption of energy.  So I would expect that we'll see (to a lesser and more delayed extent) traditional energy prices fall across all categories. In addition, the economic...